Crisis time for the NHRA

Mark Niver For the second time in a month, a NHRA Top Alcohol Dragster racer has lost his life in an accident.  Sunday at the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways outside Seattle, 60 year-old Mark Niver from Phoenix suffered fatal injuries when after deploying his parachute to slow his car it detached from the machine slamming him into netting at the end of the track and folding the car.

 

neal Parker Last month at Englishtown, NJ, Neal Parker, 58, of Millville, New Jersey was killed when his car failed to slow after a 250 mile run and crashed into barriers at the end of the track. His parachutes never opened.

Top Fuel Champion Scott Kalitta was also killed at the Englishtown, NJ track in 2008 when his car suffered catastrophic mechanical failure.

In February of this year, a female fan was killed at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Firebird International Raceway from a tire that came off Top Fuel Dragster Antron Brown’s machine.

Add in 14-time NHRA Champion John Force’s accident at Texas in 2007 that could have claimed his life and the testing accident in March of that same year in Gainesville that did claim the life of John Force Racing driver Eric Medlen and NHRA has a glaring problem which is safety.

Let me state before going any further, racing will never be 100 percent safe. It is an impossibility.  However, one must pursue every option that is available to make the sport as safe as humanly possible!

John Force has made safety almost his religion since the loss of Eric Medlen and his own accident.  Part of that passion is that his daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney race as does his son-in-law Robert Hight.

Ford Racing has jumped onboard with the use of their “Blue Box” on all Nitro Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars in NHRA. These data centers collect valuable information in any accident that can help engineers find what went wrong and help them toward a solution to the problem.

NHRA shortened runs in the Nitro division to 1000 feet.  A good move that now must be implemented also in all classes of NHRA competition.

NHRA needs to bring all parties that participate in NHRA, owners, drivers, crew chiefs, technical people, and anyone that has a stake in finding solutions to the table. 

I’d put together a blue ribbon panel of industry experts.  I use the word “industry” to also cover those not involved in NHRA drag racing.  I want the foremost experts in racing wherever they are found.

NHRA must look at the facilities they race at and have a standard that does not waiver from facility to facility. Why aren’t their safer barriers on the track walls? Why aren’t fences in front of spectators higher? Why aren’t there crushable barriers at the end of the runs?

There are a lot of questions that must be asked and NHRA needs to be open and honest when asking them, even if the answers may not be to their liking.

NHRA has a responsibility it can not avoid.  The organization must be forthcoming and transparent as it moves itself into the forefront of racing safety not only in drag racing but in the world. Let’s all hope they become obsessed with safety so we can all smile at the end of a race weekend instead of shedding tears.

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